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May 12. 2013 6:39PM

Bike/Walk to Work Week takes aim at NH traffic congestion

DURHAM — Commuters around the state this week will be using alternative modes of transportation during national Bike/Walk to Work Week.

The national effort focuses specifically on bicycling, but local organizations like Commute Green New Hampshire are encouraging commuters to embrace any form of transportation beyond driving in a car by themselves.

“The point of it is to really take this week when the weather is usually starting to get nice and help people think about a different way to get to work,” volunteer Beth Potier said.

Commuters are encouraged to participate through a variety of events, including free commuter breakfasts around the Seacoast on Friday morning.

Communities and employers will host commuter breakfast locations at Dover City Hall, in Durham at New Hampshire Hall, at the bandstand in Exeter, at Stevens Field in Lee, at The Bike Factory on Main Street in Newmarket, at Gus’s International Bike Shop in North Hampton, at Grill 28 at Pease International Tradeport, at Popover’s in Market Square in Portsmouth, at the Rye Public Library and at Timberland’s headquarters in Stratham.

“Our hope is that people maybe do it for this week, or maybe just on Friday, realize it is kind of cool, they saved a little money, got a little workout, and had fun, and maybe they will try it for the rest of the summer,” Potier said.

Potier and her husband are regular bike commuters, although she knows living a mile from their jobs at the University of New Hampshire makes this easier for them than for some others.

But Seacoast Area Bike Routes is making it easier for commuters through detailed bike maps on its website.

At UNH, about 60 bikers/walkers attended last year’s breakfast, and Potier, who works in UNH’s media relations department, said they are trying to improve on that number.

“UNH students are usually gone so the focus is really on faculty and staff,” Potier said, adding that students are pretty good about not driving themselves to campus, in no small part due to parking challenges on campus, but staff and faculty are not.

Each year the university conducts a greenhouse gas inventory, and the most recent survey indicated that about 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions on campus come from commuters.

“That is not an insignificant number,” Potier said.

Bike/Walk to Work Week aims to promote bicycling as a healthy and safe way to get to work, decrease traffic congestion, improve air quality, and raise public awareness of opportunities to improve bike facilities around the state.

“You see deer, you hear birds. When you’re riding a bike, you really can channel the 10-year-old within,” said Marj Foote, who commutes from Kittery, Maine, to her job at UNH combining bicycle, Wildcat Transit, and sometimes her car.

The week will conclude with a commuter celebration at the Portsmouth Brewery on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. where presentation of the Corporate Commuter Challenge trophies will be awarded to companies of various sizes who field the most alternative commuters.

gmacalaster@newstote.com


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